Outhouse Theatre, Tuesday 1 June 2010
Senator David Norris launches the Dublin Film Qlub
Film Qlub Season One: Silent and Pre-code Films. Double-bill:
A Woman (1915).
I Don’t Want to Be a Man! (1920)
FILM 1: A WOMAN
USA, 1915. B&W. Silent, with English inter-titles. 20 min.
Dir. Charles Chaplin [produced at Essanay studios].
Cast: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance
Script: Charles Chaplin
Chaplin was renowned for his unique blend of ‘physical comedy’ and social commentary; you will find those here, together with a few layers of sexual innuendo: the protagonist is penetrated by pins, sprayed by hoses, sits to a dinner of donuts... Most film critics consider that Chaplin’s films only reached maturity after his period at the Essanay studios, but we disagree - A Woman is a perfect film. There are many remarkable things about this movie, including its feminist and anti-homophobic agenda, but perhaps the biggest thrill is to watch Charlie’s face when he sets his eyes on a gorgeous white dress and realises that the two are made for each other. A Woman is also a mad version of Cinderella (with Charlie as Cinders, and two moustachioed villains as the ugly sisters), a little gem which puts the ‘fairy’ back into fairytale.
FILM 2: I DON’T WANT TO BE A MAN!
Germany, 1920. B&W. Silent, with English inter-titles. 45 min.
Original title: Icht Möchte kein Mann sein
Dir. Ernst Lubitsch.
Cast: Ossi Oswalda, Kurt Götz, Ferry Sikla.
Script: Hanns Kräly and Ernst Lubitsch.
This feature film is a riot! The protagonist is a rebellious tomboy who relieves her boredom by dressing up as a man and attending the most elegantly decadent ballroom in Berlin. Once there, she spots a young man of her acquaintance who does not recognise her, and she is drawn to him. Luckily for her, at least for today he does not seem to be interested in women...
This cross-dressing film marks another crossing over, from gay-friendly connotation to in-your-face queerness, with a self-confidence and a moral unfussiness which will leave you gasping. After almost a century of gay silences in cinema, we are just beginning to have some normalised representations of homosexuality on the screen, and we could learn a thing or two from this glorious silent comedy. Film historians may tell you that Ernst Lubitsch’s movies, after his early mad-cap comedies, got progressively more serious and more political. But there is a political backdrop to this simple-minded comedy, which makes the rather serious point that the vital social differences between men and women are both artificial, and breachable. I Don’t Want to be a Man! is also a beautifully crafted film. And it is full of great moments. Do watch out for the butler’s matter-of-fact dealing with any contingency: homosexuality, casual sex, cross-dressing, hysteria, it’s all in a day’s work.
© Dublin Film Qlub 2010
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